Montgomery: A judge on Tuesday set a final hearing in a lawsuit over control of the Alabama Democratic Party. Montgomery Circuit Judge Greg Griffin scheduled the hearing for Jan. 30. The hearing could signal that a resolution is on the way in the legal dispute over who is party chair. Longtime state party leader Nancy Worley had filed the lawsuit to block state Rep. Chris England from taking control as party chair. A revamped governing board of the party elected England as chair this fall, but Worley and her supporters maintained his election was illegitimate. The ongoing feud has pitted longtime party leaders, such as Worley and Joe Reed, against an upstart faction. The Democratic National Committee supports England and recognizes him as state chair. Barry Ragsdale, an attorney representing the defendants in Worley’s suit, said last month that England is functioning as party chair.
Anchorage: Alaska experienced its warmest year on record, according to federal climate officials.The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in its U.S. Climate report said Alaska had a statewide average temperature of 32.2 degrees, 6.2 degrees above the long-term average. It also surpassed the previous record statewide average temperature of 31.9 set in 2016, the agency said. Four of the last six years in Alaska have been record warm years, NOAA said. Ten cities experienced their warmest years ever, including Anchorage, Fairbanks, Utqiagvik, Kotzebue, King Salmon, Bethel, Northway, McGrath, Kodiak and Cold Bay. Alaska set the record despite a December that featured temperatures closer to average, NOAA said. NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information compiled the annual summary. Among the other highlights was rainfall in other states. The contiguous 48 states experienced the second-wettest year on record with 34.78 inches, just 0.18 inches less than the total for the wettest year set in 1973.
Phoenix: The National Weather Service said there were seven confirmed tornadoes in Maricopa and Pinal counties last year, the most in nearly five decades. Meteorologists said last year’s total is second only to the 10 confirmed tornadoes that hit the Phoenix metro area in 1972. They said all of the 2019 tornadoes were considered weak, ranking as either F0 or F1 in intensity. But in June 1972, an F2 tornado damaged about 200 homes in Paradise Valley and caused extensive damage to canals and power lines in Scottsdale and east Phoenix. The National Weather Service in Phoenix has data on tornadoes going back to 1950. Meteorologists said there were five confirmed tornadoes in the metro Phoenix area in both 1992 and 1993 with four tornadoes in 1971. Tornadoes are considered a rare event because the Phoenix area generally doesn’t get the wind shear and unstable air mass needed to whip up the twisters.
Fayetteville: The Washington County jail has temporarily suspended its work-release program to free up more bed space in the facility, which has been hindered by overcrowding. Washington County Sheriff Tim Helder said the move will open up 24 beds, with some detainees being released if eligible and others moved into the jail’s general population. The sheriff told the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that a recent increase in the number of sex offenders housed at the county jail prompted the decision because sex offenders must be housed separately from other detainees. The county jail has 710 beds, but because of legal requirements to separate certain detainees, it’s considered full when the facility is 80% full, or at 568 detainees, the sheriff’s office said. On Monday, the number of detainees reached 792, authorities said.
Dana Point: A baby gray whale heading south with its mother was spotted swimming alongside dolphins and sea lions off the Southern California coast. Crew members on a whale-watching boat recorded video of the pair in about 100 feet of water near Salt Creek Beach in Dana Point on Tuesday. Capt. Frank Brennan aboard Dana Wharf’s Ocean Adventure estimated that the calf was just a day or so old. “You could still see the fetal folds on it behind the blowhole,” he said of the young whale. Brennan told the Orange County Register he followed the pair as white-sided dolphins stopped feeding to check the whales out. The dolphins and whales were then joined by a group of sea lions. The whales are migrating to the lagoons of Baja, Mexico.
Denver: Wildlife officials have discovered evidence of wolves living in northwestern Colorado after hunters reported a suspected pack and residents found a scavenged elk carcass. The Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department announced the discoveries Wednesday, suggesting a pack of gray wolves might be residing in the state, The Denver Post reported. The news was first reported Tuesday by the Craig Press. The hunters provided a video shot in October of two wolves shown near the Wyoming and Utah borders, officials said. It was the first time in a few years multiple wolves were seen traveling together in Colorado, officials said. The announcement comes days after state election officials placed a measure to reintroduce wolves on this year’s ballot, officials said. The ballot will ask voters whether to require state wildlife commissioners to reintroduce gray wolves by the end of 2023 on public land in western Colorado, officials said. State wildlife officials have studied the possibility of reintroducing wolves in Colorado and decided to oppose such efforts, officials said. Local leaders in 23 counties have also opposed reintroduction.
Killingly: The Killingly Board of Education voted to bring back a controversial Native American-themed athletic mascot. The board decided to reinstate the Redmen mascot at a meeting Wednesday, the Norwich Bulletin reported. In October, the same board approved the new Red Hawks mascot after it was overwhelmingly approved by students at Killingly High School. Several students, faculty members and local tribal representatives have criticized the original mascot as inappropriate, racist and stereotypical. It featured the profile of a Native American man wearing a headdress. Newly elected Republican members of the education board made a campaign promise to reverse the change. The board, with a Republican majority, held a public meeting on Dec. 11 where it voted to remove the Red Hawks mascot but tied on whether to return to the original mascot. More than a dozen people, including students and Native American representatives, spoke out against the decision to keep original mascot at the meeting. They also sought some other compromise, the Bulletin reported. At the Wednesday meeting, the board also voted to appoint a subcommittee that would update the high school logo so it doesn’t “portray Native Americans in a negative stereotype.”
Wilmington: A record number of vehicles crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge from New Jersey into the First State last year. In 2019, 18,288,314 vehicles drove through the southbound toll plaza, cruising past the 2016 record of 17.8 million, according to the Delaware River and Bay Authority. Put another way – if you lined up every one of those cars (assuming each is an average of 14.75 feet) it would stretch more than 51,000 miles. That is twice the Earth’s circumference, with a road trip from Delaware to Myrtle Beach, S.C. to spare. The bridge also had a record for a month in August, handling more than 1.8 million vehicles, surpassing the August 2003 record by 27,000. Officials said the record traffic volume could be associated with an improving economy and stable gasoline prices in addition to favorable beach weather. All those vehicles means a good chunk of change in toll revenue. Last year, the net total was an estimated $132.8 million, up roughly $27 million from the previous year. For passenger vehicles, the one-way fare is $5. Tolls are paid by vehicles traveling from New Jersey into Delaware.
District of Columbia
Washington: Neighbors in a Northeast D.C. community quickly mobilized to help their neighbors who lost everything in a raging fire Sunday, WUSA-TV reported. Neighbors donated everything, from school supplies to toiletries. James Caviness-Bey was working overnights at Wal-Mart when he got word of the fire, with his family still inside their Madison street home. But on Wednesday night, he was able to thank D.C. firefighters for their quick response. He also recognized the person he calls the real hero: his wife, who ran back into their burning home when she realized their 2-year-old grandson was still inside. With the flames intensifying, Edwina Caviness-Bey dropped her grandson from the second floor window into her son’s arms. From there, she had no choice but to jump out. She had second-degree burns, a fractured pelvis and wrist, and is still in the intensive care unit preparing for surgery. Caviness-Bey, his son and grandson all got to thank their neighbors Wednesday night. Even the family dog, whom for hours they thought had died in the blaze, made an appearance. Neighbors are planning another donation drive to support this family in the coming days. In the meantime, they have set up a GoFundMe page.
West Palm Beach: Doctors told a woman she had a better chance of winning the lottery than of giving birth to two sets of twins in the same year. But Alexzandria Wolliston said she won the jackpot with the births of Mark and Malakhi in March and Kaylen and Kaleb in December. “Oh, yes, I feel like I hit the twin lottery,” Wolliston told WPTV. She said her 3-year-old daughter helped her prepare for the double dose of twins. Two months after the first set of twins arrived, Wolliston said she learned about the second set. They were born in West Palm Beach on Dec. 27. Wolliston said Kaleb was dismissed from the hospital on Monday and she’s hoping to bring Kaylen home soon. She said she recently learned that both of her grandmothers lost twin boys at birth, which makes her believe her four babies are a blessing from above. “I always say that I feel like my grandmothers gave me their kids because two sets of twins and their twins passed away,” she said. “I feel like they just sent them down for me.”
Atlanta: Leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church forgave $4 million in debt owed by a college it founded in Atlanta. The financial boost for Morris Brown College was announced Tuesday night, news outlets reported. In exchange, the college agreed to establish a $1.5 million scholarship for AME church members. Morris Brown College lost its accreditation in 2002. Interim president Kevin James launched an effort last year to become accredited again. An official told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the debt forgiveness will help. The Georgia Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church founded Morris Brown College in 1881, the newspaper reported. The college has about 40 students enrolled, according to news outlets.
Honolulu: Improvements in programs to address Hawaii’s homeless population have allowed the state to fall from first to second in the national ranking of per capita homelessness, officials said. State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige informed lawmakers Tuesday that New York now holds the top position, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported. Morishige presented the data to the Hawaii Homelessness Summit for both houses of the state Legislature. The summit is designed to help lawmakers evaluate the success of programs funded by the Legislature and consider other solutions to homelessness. Placements of homeless people into permanent housing in Hawaii increased in 2018 from nearly 4,000 to more than 7,000. The state appears to have exceeded 7,000 placements again in 2019, he said. After trending upward from 2013 to 2016, Hawaii’s official Point in Time count of homeless people showed a decrease over the past four years. The decrease corresponds with similar increases in housing placements over the same period and is reflected in other surveys related to homelessness, Morishige said. There has also been a nearly 40% reduction in homeless families with minor children since 2016.
Kellogg: Shoshone County Sheriff Mike Gunderson told KHQ-TV that a third body buried under an avalanche at a resort was located Thursday by searchers in a helicopter. But that body has not yet been identified and authorities are not sure it is the person who was reported missing on Wednesday, Gunderson said. He said there were no other reports of missing persons on the mountain. The Silver Mountain Resort said it received a telephone call Wednesday morning from a concerned family member of the missing skier who was confirmed to be skiing there at the time of the avalanche. An avalanche happened at about 11 a.m. Tuesday on Wardner Peak, an area of the resort where the ski runs are rated at the highest difficulty level, according to resort officials. The runs had just been opened for a short period after crews performed avalanche control blasting in the area Tuesday morning, using explosives to trigger avalanches in hopes of leaving only the stable snow layers on the runs, officials said. Rescue crews and volunteers searched the avalanche area Tuesday with dogs and probes. The resort previously said five people had been recovered with minor injuries but said Wednesday afternoon that there were four people. Another skier was discovered Tuesday under about 10 feet of snow and did not survive. Yet another was found after dark. He was taken to a local hospital and pronounced dead. Experts said most avalanche survivors are dug out within 30 minutes. Names of the victims have not been released. Silver Mountain Resort is located about 60 miles east of Spokane, Washington, along Interstate 90 in the Idaho Panhandle.
Chicago: O’Hare and Midway international airports have added boxes where travelers can dispose of recreational marijuana before they board their flights. The cannabis amnesty boxes, as they’re called, were installed at each airport last week, just as legal marijuana sales began in Illinois. The boxes are located just past the airports’ Transportation Security Administration checkpoints, the Chicago Tribune reported. Although police aren’t targeting travelers with cannabis, and it’s not illegal to have it at the airport, possessing is still illegal under federal law, and air space is regulated by the federal government, Chicago Police Department spokeswoman Maggie Huynh said. The boxes give people an opportunity to ensure that they’re not breaking federal law and won’t run into an issue when they land at their destination, she said. The boxes are owned by the Department of Aviation and serviced by the police. Police officers will regularly empty the boxes, file a report for the items inside and dispose of any surrendered marijuana like they would narcotics, Huynh said. Illinois residents can legally possess up to 30 grams of marijuana, or about an ounce, in Illinois and out-of-state residents can have half that.
Indianapolis: Family members of Hoosier bank robber John Dillinger have dropped their lawsuit seeking rights to open his grave at Crown Hill Cemetery. The lawsuit, filed in August by Dillinger nephew Michael C. Thompson, was initially dismissed without prejudice by Marion County Superior Court Judge Timothy Oakes on Dec. 4, but Thompson was granted an extension of time to file an amended complaint. That deadline would have been Jan. 15. But on Tuesday, a motion to voluntarily dismiss the lawsuit was submitted to the court on Thompson’s behalf. It has been granted, effectively putting the issue to rest. Since the lawsuit was dismissed without prejudice, the family could revisit the issue in court. It’s unknown what Thompson’s plans are moving forward or how this affects the status of the proposed documentary. Attempts to reach the Thompson family and their attorney, Andrea Simmons, were unsuccessful. Crown Hill Cemetery objected to plans to exhume Dillinger’s body, citing a duty to “ensure the safety and integrity” of the grounds and those buried there. In a written statement sent to IndyStar, cemetery management said they were pleased the matter has been resolved. Dillinger, born in Indianapolis in 1903, gained notoriety after a string of bank robberies in 1933 and several high-profile escapes from police custody. His name became legend when FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover labeled him Public Enemy No. 1, but his life of crime came to an end when police and federal agents ambushed him outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater on July 22, 1934. Rumors have swirled for decades about the identity of the man killed in Chicago and buried in Crown Hill Cemetery. Efforts allegedly made by Dillinger to alter his appearance – including plastic surgery and burning off his fingerprints with acid – have led some historians and Dillinger enthusiasts to believe the body belonged to a doppelganger. Earlier this year, the FBI took the rare step of issuing a statement regarding the case, acknowledging the “common myth” that there was a Dillinger lookalike killed that night, but such claims “have been advanced with only circumstantial evidence.”
Des Moines: It will cost more to attend the Iowa State Fair this year. Gate prices for adults will rise to $14 from $12 last year, and tickets for children ages 6 to 11 will increase to $8 from $6, the fair announced Wednesday. Advance purchase prices are going up a dollar: to $9 for adults and $5 for children ages 6 to 11. Children 5 and under still will get in free. Building and security improvements, roads and entertainment are driving the increases, said the fair’s marketing director, Mindy Williamson. There will be ticket discounts on some days for certain groups, including veterans on Aug. 17 and Older Iowans Day on Aug. 19. The fair runs Aug. 13-23 this year.
Wichita: An animal rescue group said an emaciated dog is recovering after he was found in a locked kennel that was thrown in a dumpster. The Wichita Animal Action League said in a Facebook post that the pit bull was found Wednesday at an apartment complex and taken to a veterinarian, where he is “eating food as fast as it’s put in front of him.” He is around 2 years old and weighs just over 20 pounds, less than half the amount a dog of his size should weigh.The post described the dog as “very sweet and loving.” The group is asking for donations for his medical care. The post said the dog is dehydrated and will need slow, small meals over a long period of time because feeding him too quickly could be dangerous. It will likely be months before he is eligible for adoption. Wichita Officer Charley Davidson said an investigation is underway.
Louisville: A billboard calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to vote to remove President Donald Trump from office is making its rounds in Louisville this week. “Trump broke the law,” according to the billboard, which includes McConnell’s face. “Senator McConnell, don’t help him cover it up. Vote to convict & remove.” The mobile billboard appears on a white van sponsored by four progressive organizations: Need to Impeach, Daily Kos, MoveOn and Public Citizen. Organizers said it will be parked along West Broadway through Saturday. It will make stops in front of McConnell’s office and also go to Bishop Lane in front of Jefferson County Republican Headquarters. The four organizations are spending more than $400,000 on the billboard and ad campaign, according to a press release. McConnell has said he wants a quick trial that would have the Senate first hear arguments from the prosecution and defense before deciding if witnesses should be called – conditions Democrats oppose.
New Orleans: John White, who helped strengthen the role of charter schools, backed a taxpayer-funded tuition voucher program for private schools and oversaw overhauls of the state’s school accountability efforts, said he is stepping down as Louisiana’s education superintendent. He told state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members in a letter that he will leave the job March 11. He did not state his reasons. The board said a search for his replacement would begin immediately and the process will be discussed at an upcoming meeting. White can point to numerous improvements made during his eight years as education chief, including improved graduation rates and better performance on college preparation tests. His tenure was also marked by a rocky relationship with teacher unions and Gov. John Bel Edwards. And the state continues to lag others in nationwide education rankings. Still, his departure comes as his job seemed secure, following the election last year of a slate of state education board members who were backed by the state’s business lobby, which was supportive of White. Although he didn’t discuss his future, The Advocate reported in April that he had quietly co-founded a national nonprofit group, Propel America, aimed at connecting low-income high school graduates with solid jobs. White has been education superintendent since 2012 but he had been working on a month-to-month basis since 2016. Although he had the support of a majority of the 11-member state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, he lacked the two-thirds majority needed to get a new contract.
Portland: The state with the largest fishing industry for lobster likely experienced a drop in catch last year, but the dip in harvest was probably not as dramatic as initially feared. Patrick Keliher, commissioner of the Maine Department of Marine Resources, told Maine Public that initial reports showed a harvest of about 100 million pounds of lobster. That would be a drop of nearly 20 million pounds from last year, but still a much higher number than the industry was used to in the 1990s and 2000. The season initially looked like it could produce a substantial drop in catch, but Maine’s lobstermen finished strong, Keliher said. The price for Maine lobster was also strong, he said. It’s possible for the state’s lobster catch to be slowed by lobsters shedding their shells late in the year. The biggest surge in catch happens after many lobsters lose their old shells and reach legal harvesting size.
Baltimore: A 24-year-old chimpanzee at the Maryland Zoo has given birth to a girl. The zoo welcomed the 2-pound new addition on Dec. 29, officials announced in a statement on Wednesday. The first-time mother, Raven, and the newborn chimp have “spent their first week together bonding in a quiet off-exhibit area,” according to the statement. The baby chimp will go on display for the public following the “short period” of bonding. Raven was the second chimpanzee to give birth at the zoo outside of Baltimore in 2019. Bunny, gave birth to Lola in July. There are now 14 chimps in its care, and officials said the births have been important as reproduction of the species at zoos nationwide has slowed in recent years. Officials haven’t decided on a name, a spokeswoman for the Maryland Zoo told The Washington Post. Sometimes the animal’s care team chooses a name and other times there’s a contest that involves the public, she added.
Wellesley: A college employee who posted a controversial Facebook post about Iran bombing the U.S. was suspended Wednesday. Babson College’s director of sustainability, Asheen Phansey, faced disciplinarian actions for a post he made on social media on Tuesday that suggested Iran list 52 American cultural sites that Iran could bomb, the Boston Herald reported. President Donald Trump posted on Twitter on Jan 4. that the U.S. has targeted 52 Iranian sites in reference to rising tensions between the countries. In the now-deleted post, Phansey wrote, “In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomenei should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb. Um… Mall of America? Kardashian residence?” In a statement Wednesday, the former employee said, “I regret my bad attempt at humor. As an American, born and raised, I was trying to juxtapose our ‘cultural sites’ with ancient Iranian churches and mosques. I am completely opposed to violence and would never advocate it by anyone. I am sorry that my sloppy humor was read as a threat.”
Jackson: A prison inmate said he was transferred and lost his job as a tutor after complaining that teachers were supplying answers to a high school equivalency test. U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith declined to dismiss the lawsuit, the Detroit Free Press reported Thursday, which means it will go to trial or be settled. Munin Kathawa, 57, who is serving a life sentence for murder, sued five people, including a deputy warden, claiming his rights were violated. He said he reported his concerns about cheating in 2018 to a state lawmaker and a Catholic priest. Corrections Department spokesman Chris Gautz declined to comment. Kathawa said he was falsely accused of being a safety threat and removed as a tutor. A teacher, Laura Bendele, testified in a deposition that she was pressured by officials to stick to that story but refused.
Minneapolis: Two prominent leaders have proposed an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution aimed at closing the state’s dismal academic achievement gap. The proposal comes from Alan Page, a former Minnesota Supreme Court justice, and Neel Kashkari, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. They want to change the state’s constitution to guarantee all children the fundamental right to a quality public education, the Star Tribune reported Wednesday. Page and Kashkari told the newspaper in an interview that making quality education a civil right for all children is the catalyst that’s needed to break the logjam that has blocked effective reform. Even though Minnesota has spent billions of dollars to solve the problem, the state still has some of the worst educational disparities in the nation, as measured by race and socioeconomic status, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis. Courts have interpreted the Minnesota Constitution as giving students a fundamental right to an “adequate” education. Page and Kashkari want to raise that standard to a “quality” education. Page and Kashkari said similar amendments have driven improvements in other states. To amend the Minnesota Constitution, they will need the Legislature’s approval to put the question to voters. The two hope to get it on the ballot this fall. But they’ll face opposition from the state’s powerful teachers’ union, Education Minnesota, which said it will resist the proposal.
Hancock County: A huge component of a new rocket system was wheeled slowly from a New Orleans spacecraft factory on Wednesday to a barge that will float it up the Mississippi River for testing. The recently completed “core stage” of NASA’s Space Launch System, which dwarfed the hundreds of NASA and Boeing employees, was to be taken to the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, about 50 miles northeast of New Orleans. Space Launch System rockets are expected to take astronauts to the moon as part of NASA’s Artemis program. The core stage – which measures 212 feet from end to end and more than 27 feet in diameter – was transported like a giant Carnival float from the Michoud Assembly Center in eastern New Orleans to the barge as workers took pictures. It will undergo tests at Stennis ahead of the first Artemis launch, planned for 2021, said Tony Castilleja, a systems engineer with the Boeing Space Team. The SLS core stage, with four huge engines, is the largest rocket stage NASA has assembled since the Apollo stages that first powered crewed missions to the Moon. It will be used for Artemis I, a test-flight without a crew. Artemis II is to send up a crewed spacecraft. The third mission, Artemis III, would put a man and woman on the south pole of the moon, with an eye toward a continued presence that would lead to a trip to Mars.
Jefferson City: Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s campaign said it raised about $540,000 in recent months, outpacing the $445,000 brought in by Democratic challenger Nicole Galloway. Those numbers are dwarfed by fundraising by independent political action committees, which rose in power after voters put limits on political donations directly to candidates in 2016. There are no limits on donations to PACs, which can work to bolster a candidate but cannot coordinate with the official campaign. A PAC backing Parson raised close to $1 million in the latest reporting period, which covers October through December. Uniting Missouri PAC Chairman John Hancock said the committee has more than $5 million on hand to spend helping Parson in the gubernatorial race. A pro-Galloway PAC has not yet reported recent fundraising. The general election is Nov. 3.
Helena: Urban deer culling for the fall and winter seasons was suspended by city officials amid budget cuts. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission recommended the city of Helena be allowed to continue culling despite budget cuts, The Helena Independent Record reported Tuesday. Former Police Chief Troy McGee made the decision to cut the program when the department was ordered to make more than $470,000 in cuts, city officials said. The program costs the city about $30,000 a year, officials said. The commission sets a quota range of up to 250 designated to maintain the population at desire levels and the city determines the exact number to cull each year within that range, officials said. This will be the first fall and winter the city has not culled deer since 2008, officials said. The city has plans to survey the deer population to determine if it will resume culling operations, Police Chief Steve Hagen said. The city has usually culled about 100 deer a year and populations have remained steady, officials said.
Omaha: Despite more than doubling releases from its reservoir system, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers still doesn’t expect to eliminate all the leftover water from last year’s near-record runoff that led to massive Missouri River flooding. The Corps had been discharging about twice the usual winter amount from Gavins Point Dam – the southernmost in the six-dam system. The Corps said it was raising the discharge this month to 30,000 cubic feet per second, an increase of more than 11%. Until a seasonal decrease that began in November, the amount being released had been 80,000 cubic feet per second for months, also more than twice the average. Areas along the Missouri River and its tributaries in parts of Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and Missouri were ravaged by floodwaters in the early spring. Heavy rains later in the year reflooded many areas that had been left unprotected because of levee failures. John Remus, chief of the Corps’ Missouri River management, told the Omaha World-Herald the reservoir system needs to make as much space as possible in light of the National Weather Service forecast for warmer than normal weather and higher than normal runoff in January and February. The Corps normally doesn’t release more during the winter because of the potential for ice jams and dams upriver, Remus told the Associated Press on Wednesday. Once the river freezes over it essentially becomes a pipe, Remus said, limiting its capacity.
Las Vegas: Lincoln County authorities have announced that a reward is being offered for information surrounding the starvation and death of a herd of cattle. The Lincoln County sheriff’s office announced the $10,000 reward Monday after the herd of six were locked into a corral in rural south Nevada, officials said. Authorities believe at least one person intentionally isolated the herd in a coral where all but one cow starved to death. The herd was in the Tule Spring area about 30 miles north of Mesquite when weather made travel to the area difficult, Sheriff Kerry Lee said. The rancher who owns the cattle last saw them alive the first week of December before the weather cleared and he returned to his cattle, authorities said. The area is a popular location for hunters, authorities said. Anyone with information or trail camera footage of vehicles in the area is asked to contact the Lincoln County sheriff’s office.
Nashua: Three employees were sickened by a cleaning chemical at an Amazon warehouse, fire officials said Thursday. Firefighters in Nashua responded at about 4 a.m. for a report of a chemical reaction that happened while a crew was mixing chemicals, Deputy Fire Chief Karl Gerhard told WMUR-TV. “The major symptoms we saw were respiratory-related, scratchiness, coughing-related issues,” Gerhard said. “There was possibly an unknown chemical in the bucket already that they were putting the chemicals in, and that caused the reaction.” The building was evacuated and the employees were taken to a hospital. Two were treated and released. A fire department report said after the building had been ventilated, crews monitored the building using air and chemical metering devices and found no abnormal readings. OSHA and the state fire marshal’s office were notified.
Trenton: All 37,000 of the lead water pipes in the state capital will be replaced over the next five years at an estimated cost of $150 million, Trenton officials said Thursday. The announcement comes about five months after the state’s largest city, Newark, said it would speed up the replacement of its 18,000 lead lines over the next 21/2 years – and as the state grapples with how to move forward with its old water infrastructure. Trenton’s publicly owned water utility draws water from the Delaware River and serves some 200,000 customers in the city, in addition to surrounding communities of Ewing, Hamilton, Hopewell and Lawrence. Pipes will be replaced in phases as the city and Trenton Water Works, the public utility, continue to secure funds, which are coming from the state infrastructure bank, as well a federal program, according to David Smith, the water works chief engineer. Residents must register on the utility’s website and pay $1,000 to have their lines replaced, Democratic Mayor Reed Gusciora said. That’s a savings, he said, because replacement typically costs about $2,000-$5,000 per line. About 7,000 people have registered to have their pipes replaced, and officials said they hope to make the replacement mandatory and at no cost at some point.
Albuquerque: The head of New Mexico’s largest Catholic diocese has issued directives aimed at protecting parishioners during flu season. Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying New Mexico is one of the states experiencing widespread flu outbreaks. He’s urging people not to shake hands or hug when they attend Mass. Parishioners also are being asked not to hold hands while reciting the Our Father and those who are ill should stay home to avoid spreading the virus. Priests and other church officials also are being asked to wash their hands before and after distributing communion. Wester said the directives will be revoked when the situation improves. He said the archdiocese was instituting the directives not to limit expression of faith, but rather as a preventive measure against a widespread and potentially deadly disease.
New York City: Nearly 300 of the city’s new subway cars were removed over concerns that the doors could open while the trains were in motion, The New York Times reported Wednesday. The 298 cars on the A, C, J and Z lines were supposed to replace subways that date to the 1960s. They were removed after two recent incidents signaled trouble, the Times reported, citing people who were told about the malfunctions. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not say what specific incidents led to removing the cars, but said no riders were injured, the newspaper reported. The new cars, known as R-179s, were purchased for $600 million under a contract between the authority and the Canadian manufacturing giant Bombardier. A Bombardier spokeswoman told the Times that the company’s investigation of the cars showed that the doors had not been properly calibrated by a supplier, Nanjing Kangni Mechanical & Electrical of China. Transit workers complained that the new cars speedometer was hard to see, that the master controller used to drive the train was uncomfortable and the space between cars was too narrow for some workers to operate in. Riders also complained that new cars broke down much more often than older subway cars, the Times reported. An outside firm has been hired by the MTA to inspect the troubled cars.
Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Board of Governors violated the state’s open meetings laws by secretly negotiating and approving a deal to dispose of a Confederate monument from the campus of the system’s flagship school, according to a lawsuit filed by a student newspaper. DTH Media Corp., which publishes The Daily Tar Heel student newspaper on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus, wants a court to void two agreements between the Board of Governors and the state chapter of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, news outlets reported on Wednesday. The deal has been denounced by students and faculty members as paying money to support white nationalism. UNC-Chapel Hill lost a $1.5 million research grant because of it. Superior Court Judge Allen Baddour said last month that he is reconsidering his approval of the deal. Baddour approved an agreement on Nov. 27 in which the SCV agreed to take ownership of the “Silent Sam” statue and build a center to preserve it. The statue stood for more than a century on the Chapel Hill campus before protesters took it down in August 2018. The university agreed to put $2.5 million into a trust to help defray the costs of the new center. In addition, UNC-Chapel Hill paid the SCV about $75,000 not to display Confederate flags or similar banners on any UNC system campus during any meetings or demonstrations for five years.
Williston: A proposed gas plant could help reduce wasteful flaring in the northern region of the Bakken oil patch. Outrigger Energy of Denver wants to build a plant in Williams County west of Williston capable of processing up to 450 million cubic feet of gas per day. Crude oil prices surpassing $50 per barrel have attracted the company to oil drilling in the Bakken, according to CEO Dave Keanini. The company also plans to build a 70-mile gathering pipeline that starts in eastern Williams County and ends at the processing plant, according to the Bismarck Tribune. It has entered into an agreement with XTO Energy to transport gas from the producer’s wells. The Outrigger processing plant is the sixth facility of its kind in the works in North Dakota. Officials hope the investments will significantly curb the amount of excess gas that is flared in the state.
Cincinnati: The future of the city’s only abortion clinic is in question after the state health director said the facility doesn’t have enough backup doctors lined up. Because the clinic doesn’t have an agreement with a nearby, private hospital to transfer patients in case of an emergency – an agreement required by state law –Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region has operated the clinic under an exception known as a variance. Ohio Health Director Amy Acton recently rescinded that variance. To receive a variance, a clinic must provide a list of doctors willing to treat patients in case of emergencies. The clinic in Cincinnati informed the state in December it no longer had four backup doctors listed and requested 30 days to find a replacement physician. Acton then rescinded the clinic’s variance and notified the clinic its license was in jeopardy of being revoked. The clinic, which remains open, is expected to request a hearing on the issue. It indicated it was seeking another physician. Kersha Deibel, president and chief executive officer of the Planned Parenthood region, told The Columbus Dispatch that “we follow the law and are actively working to identify a new provider.”
Oklahoma City: The Oklahoma Corporation Commission said it has approved a plan for an additional area code for 19 central Oklahoma counties in the 405 area, including Oklahoma County and Oklahoma City. The commission said the North American Numbering Plan Administrator will announce the new area code later this month and it will be available in July. Starting in January 2021, callers will have to dial 10 digits that include the area code plus the seven-digit number. Commission spokesman Matt Skinner said existing phone numbers will not be affected or changed, but callers will have to dial all 10 digits to make a phone call. The area code “overlay” is similar to one adopted in 2011, when the 539 code was added in the 918 area code region that includes Tulsa. The commission said the additional area code is needed because the administrator has determined that the 405 area code will run out of available numbers in December 2021.
Portland: Lawmakers have approved a $4.5 million contract with a hazardous waste removal company to clean up homeless encampments across the city. The City Commission unanimously voted to give the contract to Rapid Response Bio Clean on Wednesday after the agenda item was pulled late last month over concerns from homeless people and their advocates, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Thursday. Opponents said the cleanups are traumatic for homeless residents and cause them to lose their property. Under a modified deal, Rapid Response workers will get training in nonviolent conflict resolution and to carry naloxone, an injection that can reverse drug overdoses. The workers generally disposed of the needles, shopping carts, trash and human waste that are left behind after a homeless camp is cleared. Notices about a clean-up must be posted at least two days before the work begins. The city has contracted with Rapid Response since 2016. But in recent weeks, the contract, which expands the scope of the company’s responsibilities and significantly increases the amount of money approved for campsite cleanups. Mayor Ted Wheeler said the new contract strikes an “excellent balance” between keeping the city clean and respecting the homeless. Rapid Response was to resume its work by Thursday.
Macungie: Mack Trucks plans to lay off 305 employees at its assembly plant north of Philadelphia, the company said Wednesday. Mack blamed the layoffs at its Lower Macungue Township plant on a downturn in the heavy-duty truck market. They will take effect at the end of February, The (Allentown) Morning Call reported. The cuts represent about 13% of the plant’s payroll. “We regret having to take this action, but we operate in a cyclical market, and after two years of extremely high volumes, we have to adapt to reduced market demand,” said Mack spokesman Christopher Heffner. Employees, most of whom belong to the auto workers union, were informed of the news Wednesday. The cuts were expected after Mack said last month that it would need to slow production to cope with reduced demand. Mack expects the North American truck market to be down nearly 30% this year.
Providence: Legislative leaders said Wednesday they’re working to undo a change to how medical marijuana dispensaries are regulated, to address a lawsuit by the governor. A provision in the state budget approved last year gave lawmakers the right to veto regulations imposed on the industry. Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo sued, arguing the new law violates the state constitution’s separation of powers clause because it gives lawmakers “unchecked control” over executive rulemaking authority. Democratic House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello and Senate President Dominick Ruggerio said Wednesday they’re filing legislation to repeal the language that required lawmakers to approve rules and regulations relating to the expansion of licenses for medical marijuana dispensaries. However, they still took issue with how the Department of Business Regulation proposed regulations for dispensaries, with Mattiello calling it “blatant overreach by the executive branch.” The legislation not only removes the controversial provision, but also imposes limits on regulators. Among them, regulators would be barred from limiting dispensaries based on geographical zones and from preventing any center from growing its own supply of medical marijuana or limiting the number of plants. Lawmakers authorized six new medical marijuana dispensaries last year, for a total of nine.
Columbia: Gov. Henry McMaster wants to expand full-day pre-kindergarten for low-income 4-year-olds to every school district across the state. The program was created in 2006 in response to a lawsuit by poorer, more rural school districts and didn’t cover all the districts in the state. McMaster’s $53 million proposal would expand the 4K program to the remaining 17 districts. Several are among South Carolina’s largest districts, including Beaufort, Charleston, Greenville and Richland District 2, according to The Post and Courier of Charleston. McMaster told the newspaper the expansion of the 4K program is crucial to his efforts to improve education to keep economic development humming in South Carolina. Several senators and House members praised the Republican governor’s proposal. Democratic Sen. Vincent Sheheen of Camden has been pushing for universal pre-kindergarten for years and said it can only improve education across all grades.
Sioux Falls: Police are investigating after an injured man was dropped off at a hospital in a plastic tub. The 18-year-old Sioux Falls man was dropped off at an emergency room Tuesday afternoon, police spokesman Sam Clemens said. The driver left after dropping the man off at the hospital. The victim suffered life-threatening injuries, including skull injuries. Clemens did not know how the man was injured. Police were able to identify the man who dropped off the victim at the hospital through the victim’s family members, along with other people who might be involved, he said. “We have a lot more questions than answers,” Clemens said. The investigation is ongoing, the Argus Leader reported
Spring Hill: General Motors and United Auto Workers Local 1853 have agreed to convert 157 local temporary workers to permanent status effective Feb. 3. The decision resolves a dispute between GM in Spring Hill and the union over the hiring of new temporary workers, Chairman Mike Herron told The Daily Herald on Thursday. Under the new collective bargaining agreement ratified in October, GM agreed to convert temporary workers with three years of continual service to permanent status. None of the temporary workers in Spring Hill had three consecutive years of service because of layoffs in 2017 and 2018, creating a short-lived problem. The deal between GM and Local 1853 allows the plant to begin bringing in new temporary workers. The company has started taking applications, seeking 154 employees for those positions. On Monday, GM announced it was making 930 temporary workers permanent at 30 of its 52 UAW-represented plants across the country. Ford also moved 592 temps to full-time status. At GM’s Flint Assembly in Michigan, 250 were told at a meeting by the local union president of their new status.
Galveston: Remains found on a tiny South Pacific island where a bloody World War II battle happened have been identified as those of a missing Marine from Galveston, a federal agency said Wednesday. In a statement, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced that the remains of 1st Lt. Justin G. Mills of Galveston, Texas, had been identified. The remains were found in 2015 on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll of the Gilbert Islands. The remains were turned over to the DPAA laboratory for genetic identification. Mills had been missing since the November 1943 Battle for Tarawa, which left about 1,000 U.S. Marines and sailors dead and more than 2,000 more wounded from fighting that stretched over four days. The DPAA said Mills died on the battle’s first day. Mills is to be buried April 29 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
St. George: More than 16,000 public comments have been submitted for a proposal on whether to allow a highway to be built through a protected Mojave desert tortoise habitat in southern Utah, federal officials said. The proposed four-lane road has drawn criticism from conservationists because the corridor would run through land set aside to protect the tortoise. The Bureau of Land Management opened the public comment period last month and will now go through all of the comments before releasing the draft environmental impact statement, The Spectrum newspaper reported Wednesday. BLM is not permitted to say where the people submitting comments were from, but there was a “mix” of people who submitted comments locally and nationally, Venhuizen said. Details on the nature of the comments were not disclosed. The draft is the first step in the year-long National Environmental Policy Act, officials said. The Utah Division of Transportation and Washington County proposed building the Northern Corridor that would pass through the Red Cliffs National Conservation Area, officials said. A definite route for the road has not yet been determined, but the draft statement would take alternatives into consideration, officials said. After the department releases the draft environmental impact statement, a new 90-day public comment period will open, officials said. A decision is expected by 2021.
Montpelier: The number of fatalities on Vermont roadways went down by about 30% in 2019, according to state figures. Vermont State Police and the Vermont Agency of Transportation released figures that show the tentative number of deaths on the state’s roads in 2019 was 47, down from 69 in 2018, the Times Argus reported. But state officials are not sure what to attribute the decrease in road fatalities. Lt. Tara Thomas, commander of safety programs for the Vermont State Police, said the reduction was “unexplainable.” Thomas said that 47 deaths are still too many for state police. “We wish we knew what the formula was to keep the numbers down. 47 is still too many for the state police. That’s 47 families that don’t have a loved one with them, so in our eyes, it’s still high. We’re averaging just way too many each month,” she said. The 47 deaths resulted from 44 crashes last year. The figure is tentative because if someone dies as a result of injuries from a 2019 crash within the first 30 days of 2020, that person’s death would be added to the list of fatalities from 2019. Vermont also had no fatal crashes reported in the state on any of the holidays last year.
Virginia Beach: An animal shelter took in 20 cats after they were found living in a storage unit with their owner who had recently lost her home, the adoption center said in a social media post. The woman and the felines were found living in a Virginia Beach self-storage unit this week, the city’s Animal Care and Adoption Center said on Tuesday. The city doesn’t have a limit on how many cats residents can own, Animal Control Supervisor Meghan Conti told The Virginian-Pilot. The adoption center said the cats were “understandably scared,” but are otherwise in good health and didn’t show signs of neglect. They’re being housed together and awaiting adoption into new homes. The animal shelter didn’t say how long the cats and their owner had been living in the storage unit or what happened with the woman.
Seattle: Mayor Jenny Durkan said Seattle will no longer use fossil fuels like natural gas to heat, cool and cook in new and substantially altered city-owned buildings and will come up with a plan by 2021 to transition all city-owned buildings to clean electric systems over time. Durkan included those directives in a “Green New Deal” executive order Wednesday. Neither the new KeyArena now under construction at Seattle Center nor the massive Seattle Aquarium expansion pavilion planned for construction starting next year will be covered by the city’s new fossil-fuel ban, however, Durkan said. That’s because the projects are underway, she said. Both city-owned structures will use a lot of energy. The $930 million new arena and 50,000-square-foot aquarium pavilion will initially be allowed to include some fossil-fuel infrastructure, though both will be included in the city’s longer-term electrification plans, Durkan’s office said. There’s no deadline yet for all city buildings to be fossil-fuel free. Last year, the council passed a Green New Deal resolution that said Seattle would seek to eliminate climate pollutants in the city by 2030.
Charleston: The U.S. Labor Department awarded $866,675 for flood recovery in West Virginia, the state’s U.S. senators announced. The funding is through the Disaster Recovery National Dislocated Worker Grant Program. Flooding in February 2018 destroyed homes, displaced residents from jobs and caused more than $22 million in public infrastructure damage, U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin said in a news release. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito said the grant will provide Workforce West Virginia with assistance to rebuild.
Town: A man from Illinois drove through Wisconsin last week with a snowmobile strapped to the roof of his car, creating a bit of a stir. Tommy Mecher, an electrician apprentice from Chicago, said he could not afford to get a trailer and pay for the extra gas to tow his snowmobile up north. “I only burned $10 more in gas on a 430-mile trip,” Mecher said. “I put it on the roof in Lemont, Illinois, where the snowmobile was and drove it up to Bessemer, Michigan.” Snowmobiling can be an expensive pastime. There's the expensive machine, helmet and cold-weather clothing, the cost to travel to a spot with enough snow and the expenses of a weekend of roaring across groomed trails. But Mecher purchased the 1990 Polaris Indy 500 snowmobile a few weeks ago, made a few minor repairs to get it running and left for his father’s house in Bessemer last Friday. Mecher said It took about an hour to load the snowmobile on the roof of his 2005 Chevy Malibu, using an old blue Ford tractor with a bucket. He modified the end of the snowmobile to keep the machine's track from caving in the roof or breaking the rear window. Mecher made a support rack of boards to shift the snowmobile's weight to the sides of the roof, away from the middle. He secured his sled with several straps that he looped through the open rear doors before tightening them and closing the doors. Mecher said he got quite a few stares from fellow motorists. When he stopped, he got questions about the legality of transporting a snowmobile on top of a car. When he arrived in Bessemer, it took just nine minutes to remove the snowmobile from its lofty perch with a front end loader and a strap.
Jackson: Foul weather has postponed plans to kill nonnative mountain goats in Grand Teton National Park. Park officials closed a large area of the Teton Range to the public this week so that hunters could shoot goats by helicopter without endangering people on the ground. Park officials now say snow and poor visibility are postponing those plans. Grand Teton spokeswoman Denise Germann said another attempt could take place in late January or early February. Mountain goats aren’t native to the park and biologists worry the 100 or more goats could spread disease to native bighorn sheep. The National Park Service has contracted Oregon-based Baker Aircraft to shoot goats with nonlead shotgun or rifle rounds, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reported. Wintry weather kept Baker from making it to the area, Germann said. Park officials also plan to use volunteer hunters on the ground.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 50 States roundup